The Right Idea At The Wrong Time

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you missed the ending of the fourth game of the National League Championship Series between Milwaukee and Los Angeles, which the Dodgers won 2-1 in 13 innings – don’t feel bad. Even though I had Fox Sports One on, I slept right through the end of the game myself, which took place someplace around 2:30am Eastern time this morning.

I’ve always thought baseball had the right proposal as to how to cover playoff games – but they had it in a format that was generally considered unreasonable for the game at the time. Yes friends, time to re-visit the ill-fated enterprise known as The Baseball Network from 1994 and 1995.

ABC and NBC shared this concept during those two seasons – and on given Saturday or Monday night, they would air all of the given MLB games that evening. Most would get their games starting at an 8:00pm Eastern time, while some games aired starting at 11:00pm that would air at 8:00pm Pacific with the three-hour time difference. The games were all regionalized – meaning various parts of the country would get different games. If you lived in the Tampa Bay area, as I did then and do now – we didn’t have the Rays yet, so we’d get either an Atlanta Braves or a Florida Marlins game.

No, I’m not inferring their regular-season format should be reinstituted. Not at all.

When the season got to the playoffs, TBN did something that was unprecedented to that point in baseball television history – in the first round, they would air all four games regionally and simultaneously. They’d all start at 8:00pm or so, and you saw the game in your region and only that game. If another game was more exciting and took longer to play, too bad – you only got to see the one game assigned to you.

It might be sensible for MLB to look into that again. With the proliferation of cable, smartphones, and the advent of the MLB Network, and considering what CBS and TBS have done with the NCAA basketball tournament by putting a game on up to four different channels at the same time, revisiting the “simultaneous start” format wouldn’t be a bad idea. What I’d propose is putting one game on FOX, another on TBS, another on FS1, and the fourth game on the MLB Network – something like that.

If the Tampa Bay Rays were to make the playoffs, I’d be interested in their games – not necessarily what was going on with the Houston Astros, or the Los Angeles Dodgers. I think fans my age or older get “tunnel vision” with their favorite teams, and would be a lot less likely to watch three or four playoff games on a given day anyways. Play the games all at once, and let the fans pick out the game they want to see on a given night.

I’d also look into starting the games earlier (say 7:30pm or thereabouts) so that if a game ran long, you’d still have a chance of getting a decent night’s rest.

With the NFL faltering a bit, but still reigning supreme in terms of the North American sports roost – it might not be a bad idea for MLB to shake things up.

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For Openers

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Photo by Anastasia Zhenina on Pexels.com

The 2018 Tampa Bay Rays likely won’t be remembered as a team of greatness. They will win at least 87 games this season, perhaps as many as 92 – but they won’t be one of the ten teams in MLB that make the playoffs each year.

What they will more possibly be remembered for years from now was the invention of a new baseball term – an opener. Instead of doing what baseball teams normally have done for years in using a starting pitcher that is used for the bulk of the game, they came up with the idea of starting games with a relief pitcher who goes an inning or two – then continuously using relievers as the game wears on. They still have a few starters like Blake Snell, who broke the Rays club record with his 21st win a few days ago. Nonetheless,  two or three times during their five-man rotation, they do not use “starting pitchers” in the strictest sense.

The strategy has paid dividends – they are second as of this writing in team earned-run average, only behind the Houston Astros. In the copycat world of sports, and particularly baseball, I can see other teams copying the Rays personnel maneuvering in seasons ahead. It also wouldn’t surprise me if a pitcher that wins 20 games or gets 300 strikeouts during the season also meets with eventual obsolescence.

 

 

The Pastime

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Don’t look now, but baseball season begins today.

I had previously said during my 2018 Predictions that I thought this was going to be a good year for the Yankees and the Dodgers, and I stick to those two clubs for my World Series forecast. Three other teams worth keeping an eye on would be the Red Sox, the Cubbies, and the defending titleholders, the Houston Astros.

Locally here in Tampa Bay, it could be a long campaign with all these matchups with Boston and the Yankees. It’ll be a good year for the Rays if they complete 2018 at the .500 mark of 81 wins and 81 losses.

Best of success to all 30 organizations, and may the best team hold the prize sometime in late October or early November.

The Purge In Raysville

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Tropicana Field’s days seem numbered. Here’s a photo I took of the Trop back in 2016.

The front office of the Tampa Bay Rays will deny it, but it’s getting kind of obvious there’s a fire sale going on with the Bay Area’s baseball team. Evan Longoria’s departure to San Francisco’s Giants was a bit expected, but no one seemed to expect the “purge” of Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi, and Stephen Sousa Jr. to separate ball clubs.

This is a club and an ownership that desperately wants out of the outdated Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, that’s for sure. The club has pitched the idea of moving to a new indoor stadium that would be built in Ybor City (a historic part of Tampa on its southeast side) that would have the look of an outdoor arena, such as the new stadium recently built for the Minnesota Vikings.

Absent that idea becoming reality and the $700-million bare minimum it would take to build the stadium there, I think the Rays would move elsewhere in the next decade. Las Vegas? San Antonio? Montreal? Portland, Oregon? Northern New Jersey? Who knows?

I’d like to see the Rays stay in Pinellas County, but that’s a ship that has apparently sailed already. Keeping the team in Tampa Bay should now be the top priority, even if that means the small move over to Tampa. But with all of these trades taking place in such short order, I kind of wonder if the ownership of the club wants to move the franchise to another city by decimating what’s left of its fan base.

The New York Rays

One of the things that came from Hurricane Irma was that the sports calendar and map got shuffled around. That’s quite understandable of course, because you don’t want to risk the health and safety of fans, players, or the structure of these facilities hosting the events.

Tropicana Field hosted a three game series between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers while Houston was flooded by Hurricane Harvey. When it looked like our area was going to get Irma, MLB moved the series where the Rays were going to host the New York Yankees.

I understand the logistical nightmares moving games around can be, and I don’t think that’s an easy operation by any means. But having the Rays host games at Citi Field where the Mets play is embarrassing. It’s basically giving the Yankees three more home games where their fans will come out in droves.

I get that there are times that games can’t always be played at neutral facilities, but come on. Baseball could have made something positive out of all of this, but instead chose to gave one of its prized teams an advantage that could make the difference as to whether or not they make the playoffs.

Language Barrier

Perhaps I should have known something was wrong earlier on in the evening.

Friday night, I'm watching the Rays game with Texas. I'm also on the computer which sits to the right of my TV in the bedroom, which prevents me from noticing the ore-game show has no sound. I don't have the TV on mute, so there should be sound.

I do some chores and get back to the game at about 7:30. Now there's audio, but it's in Spanish. Again, I'm not generally concerned about it, so I fiddle around on the computer some more. I know the Spanish announcers will go into some high pitched exclamations if something good happens, plus it could be some sort of technical issue on the broadcasters end.

Midway through the game, it's still in Spanish. Now I'm thinking its something wrong on my end. I pour through the various audio settings, and restore settings to their defaults. BOOM! There's the voice of Dewayne Staats calling balls and strikes.

Somehow, my TV had found and switched over to the SAP audio channel. Don't know how it happened, but it did. Weird.

Raysvolution

Can’t help but notice how good are local team has been playing as of late. As of the end of play Tuesday night past, the Rays are 51-44, two games behind Boston for the lead in the AL East, and would get the first of two wildcard spots if the season ended there. 

Notice that I’m not using the right letter word beginning with P just yet. There are 67 games left in the regular season, so a lot can and probably will happen. 

The one thing I’m noticing that has me optimistic is this team is gaining confidence, especially since taking three out of four from the Red Sox recently. Belief is important when the best teams lose 60 times a year. 

Hoping there’s something good ahead, but we baseball fans are a superstitious bunch. Let’s not get overhyped.